New Hotness: Late 2013 MBPr

I have received my 15" MacBook Pro with Retina Display. This is my first new computer in over four years. Normally I get one about every three, but this time around I decided to wait a while and see how things went. They did not go well.

Basically, my old, beloved 2009 17" MacBook Pro has been dying a slow death over the last year as I've awaited the new hardware with increasing impatience. As of the other day it was freezing every few hours. And that's when not in use.  To complicate matters, I even had a hard drive in it die a month or two ago. Enough, I say!

So when Apple finally announced the latest 15" MBPr, I... Hesitated...

To be honest, my enthusiasm for getting new computers has lessened as I've gotten older. These days, I think of setting up new hardware as something I do for work, not on my free time. It doesn't help that the hardware has largely stabilized in terms of form factor: today's MacBook Pros look pretty much just like they did four years ago. And spending this rather large chunk of cash is never easy either. But what's a systemsboy to do? I needed a new machine. Bad. 

So I bit the bullet. I got, essentially, the top of the line, but with the second-fastest processor. So:  

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I also upgraded the storage to 1TB. (Hint: the storage is really the pricey upgrade, so if you plan on upgrading the storage you're better off just getting the higher-end machine with the dedicated graphics and faster processor for only a little extra green.) The upgrade made this a build-to-order system, so I had to order online and wait for it to ship from China.

I was very pleased when my machine arrived three days earlier than Apple's best estimate.  This put it in my hands at the end of a long weekend rather than mid-week, which was awesome.

But the biggest surprise was how much I've ended up loving this machine so far. Yes, it looks mostly the same. But in almost every respect it is far superior to my old machine. While it may look similar, it feels vastly better to use.  

For one, it doesn't crash every few hours. It's amazing how quickly you can get used to this sort of thing and start to just think of it as the norm. But when it goes away, man is it nice.

It's also much, much faster. With a newer processor featuring more cores, speedy flash storage, a faster graphics card and 16GBs of RAM this thing really feels fast. Everything just happens instantaneously, and copying the vast store of files from my backups has been as quick as I've ever seen it. When you wait four years, you really feel the speed improvements, and it's very nice.

This new machine is lighter too. Much lighter, in fact. I pick it up one-handed all the time and compared to my old 17" it feels like nothing.  This wasn't something I really thought would make such a difference, but the overall effect is that I use — and want to use — the computer more, because doing so is much less physically burdensome.

The battery lasts a really long time too — about 6 hours for my own personal general use case. Gone are the days of sitting tethered to my power cord. Now I go power free most of the time, which also makes the thing much nicer to use. 

There are even little things I've noticed that really add up: this machine doesn't get as hot as easily as my old one, and the fans are quiet during normal use; the sharp edges along the sides — which I noted when I wrote up my 17" machine — have been softened ever so slightly, and the finger notch for opening the display is also softer and shallower. These subtle things are instantly noticeable, though, because they're so much a part of how the machine feels all the time as you use it. These little improvements make a huge difference! 

Finally, the screen. I was worried the retina display would be something of a mixed blessing. I'm quite used to the screen real estate of the 17", and I must admit I missed it a bit at first. But the retina display is strikingly good. Because of its greater pixel density, I'm able to scale the resolution to increase the screen real estate and show more content without making things hard to read. And it just looks gorgeous. Also, it's quite bright and the glare problem of older models seems to be largely solved: I haven't noticed glare once after using it all around the house.

So I have to say, now that I have it, I'm pretty excited about my new MacBook Pro. Waiting the extra year to upgrade has made the new machine seem like a huge leap, and in a way I'm glad I waited. Then again, I suffered for this, so we'll see what happens in three years.